Sunday, 22 October 2017

Something a Bit Special #23 Tapeo y Vino Con El Oxford Chelt Wine School

When Nick from the Oxford Chelt Wine School asked me if I’d like to attend one of his courses, I immediately jumped at the chance of a Spanish wine and tapas evening as I had all the prerequisites: I love Spain, I love tapas and I love wine. No brainer. 

The tasting was held at The Wyastone Hotel which is in Montpellier, so easily accessible for walkers, drivers and those on public transport. Mum and I took a stroll down, so neither of us had to be the unlucky designated driver. 
The evening comprised of us tasting six wines, each paired with tapas and Nick talking us through the wine, processes, regions in Spain and a little bit about matching food. Mum only drinks red wine and I drink everything other than red, so between us, we would be able to give everything a try.
We kicked off with a Cava Reserva paired with Spanish tortilla with a lemon & garlic mayonnaise. As much as I enjoyed the cava – who doesn’t enjoy starting the evening with a glass of fizz?! It was actually the tortilla that grabbed my attention. I am a lifelong fan of Spanish tortilla but never in all of my 32 years have I had it with lemon & garlic mayonnaise. From now on, I won’t have it any other way! But back to the wine…Cava is Spanish sparkling wine; it’s made in the same way as champagne, just with grapes grown in Spain.
So without going into every wine and food pairing, here’s a few highlights from the evening…
My favourite wine of the evening was the Albarino which is a very fruity wine with flavours of grapefruit and melon and it has a crisp acidity. The Rias Baixas region where these grapes are grown is very rainy so these grapes have thick skins. Due to the acidity, this wine is perfect paired with fish, but not being a fish lover, I enjoyed it with a leftover piece of the tortilla; the rest of the group had it with marinated white anchovies with toast. 
It was the rioja that seemed to be the most popular wine of the evening and this was paired with Manchego cheese, not being a red wine lover, I didn’t drink much, but the pairing was spot on and this is all down to the salt in the cheese which reduces the bitterness and acidity in the wine.
The evening ended with a 12 year old sherry. Now, when it comes to dessert wines, they should be at least as sweet as the food they are served with, if not more so, otherwise the wine will taste dry. The grapes for this sherry are dried in the open air to sweeten them and here we had flavours of caramel, prune and figs. This was paired with homemade spiced caramelised almonds, but apparently it is fantastic paired with chocolate brownie. Nick should have kept that information to himself. I mean, you can’t tell a chocolate lover that something tastes great with chocolate brownies and then not serve them! Luckily for me, all of the wines tasted were all sourced locally, so I can buy a bottle of this sherry myself and whip up a batch of brownies to test out the pairing at home. 
Six wines down, three of them white, one rose, one red and one sweet, I sure was doing well and on my merry way; Mum on the other hand was sober and supping away on her red. 
These courses are good for those who know nothing (like me) and those who do (like the rest of the room). Nick imparted his knowledge and passion for wine throughout the evening and everyone came away knowing much more than when they arrived. Not only that, but we had a fun evening, got to spend time together, got to taste great wine and eat good food and pick up some useful tips for food pairings. 
I’ve now had a mooch through the upcoming events for Oxford Chelt Wine School and there are quite a few that take my fancy including a whole evening on champagne and sparkling wine later in October, a fine sherry tasting and one to help prepare for Christmas with a port and cheese evening in December. Gift vouchers can be purchased for their courses, so perhaps if I hint enough, I might just get to do that crucial research for the Christmas cheeseboard!
Check out their list of upcoming events here and tell me which one you’d like to go on!

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